Is your conditioning holding you back from making the changes you want? Contemplative psychotherapists state that within each of us there is a brilliant sanity that exists unconditionally. Not one of us is beyond hope. Yet most of us have been conditioned by society and our culture in such a way that we develop some pretty thick armor that can make us resistant to change.

We can hold ourselves back by identifying with the problem or with our history. To what degree do you think of yourself as being a survivor of trauma? Do you tell new acquaintances that this is who you are? Perhaps you have been experiencing depression or anxiety. Do you label yourself as a ‘depressed person’? We can overcome this by not letting our problems define us. We are vastly more than our problem or our history.

We hold ourselves back by holding on to rigid beliefs and unexamined thoughts. Sometimes I hear someone say “well it runs in my family, this is how we are." Or someone might be convinced he/she is unworthy of success, love, or happiness. We can overcome this by learning how to dialogue and question thoughts. They are only thoughts.

We hold ourselves back by being afraid to feel. Many of us have been taught to hide and deny tender feelings. Perhaps you have the fear of appearing weak or helpless if you show feelings to others. Many of us are terrified of feeling emotions so strong that we might loose control or be carried away in the torrent. This can be overcome by learning how to mindfully experience emotions: Just notice them, let them be there, gently dialogue with them, feel their presence in your body.

We are held back by unrealistic expectations of ourselves, others, and of life. We have been conditioned to expect a happy-ever-after life and relationships with the perfect man or woman of our dreams (who will always be that way). We are convinced that others are living a happy dream that somehow eludes us. We can overcome conditioning by aligning ourselves with the way life is. We are not here to have perfect pain-free lives. Life gets messy. Happiness comes when we fall in love with life as it IS (not as it isn’t).

If you find yourself here, you are part of the human club we all belong to. All that is required is willingness to move forward. Your therapist will help you find your way to get past these stumbling blocks. It helps to know what the obstacles may be.

Author's Bio: 

Leila McKay, MA, LPC is a contemplative, mindfulness-based psychotherapist in Austin, Texas. Her website is